Re: UFOnet: Fwd = Private rocket launch is 'suicidal'
- If this is the same guy I watched on TV the other night, who had a ten
minute window granted by authorities to test his latest rocket from a beach
in the UK and managed to dig a bunker 6 feet too short for the fuses to
reach, then frantically digging a fresh one for his last chance to be in the
race to space, then I look forward to the horror show in 2 years time.
> From: Frits Westra <fwestra@...>
> Reply-To: firstname.lastname@example.org
> Date: Sat, 30 Jun 2001 21:09:44 +0200
> To: <UFOnet@yahoogroups.com>
> Subject: UFOnet: Fwd = Private rocket launch is 'suicidal'
> Forwarded by: fwestra@... (Frits Westra)
> URL: http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/sci/tech/newsid_1407000/1407210.stm
> Original Date: 30 Jun 2001 15:16:31 -0000
> ========================== Forwarded message begins ======================
> BBC News Online
> Tuesday, 26 June, 2001, 15:07 GMT 16:07 UK
> Private rocket launch is 'suicidal'
> By BBC News Online science editor Dr David Whitehouse
> British rocket experts are denouncing as suicidal the latest plans of
> controversial rocket engineer Steve Bennett.
> Just watch me. 'Seeing is believing', I say to my critics
> If he goes ahead with them, he could well be killed, and the
> burgeoning British rocketry effort will be permanently stuck on the
> launch pad, they warn.
> Their concerns were voiced as Bennett, from Manchester, prepared to
> unveil his latest project, which he describes as the world's first
> private spacecraft, at an exhibition in London.
> He intends to become the first private astronaut to go into space with
> his own rocket. Within two years, he hopes to take two passengers into
> space with him. Critics are already calling it the "bye, bye, Bennett
> Steve Bennett's latest development is the Nova capsule.
> Alongside it at the exhibtion will be a larger capsule called
> Thunderbird, which Bennett hopes will take him, and the two
> passengers, into space.
> But other rocket experts are worried, not least because the
> Thunderbird capsule is actually a converted cement mixer, containing
> sheets of hardboard and a few computer joysticks.
> "This is not like launching an off-the-shelf rocket to a few tens of
> thousands of feet," said British rocket expert Richard Osborne.
> "Getting to the edge of space is a very different matter. You have to
> have expertise, experience, tonnes of money and then test, test,
> BBC News Online put these criticisms to Steve Bennett. He responded:
> "We are not planning any tests such as wind tunnel or vibration tests
> before we launch it. That is what the test flight is for."
> 'Ambitious project'
> He confirmed that it was his intention for the Nova capsule to be
> launched on a 3,050-metre (10,000-ft) shake-down mission by a cluster
> of commercially available rocket motors all strapped together.
> If he gets into that capsule and lights the rockets it will be, bye,
> bye, Bennett
> Richard Osborne told BBC News Online that the rockets Mr Bennett was
> using each had a burn-time of six seconds, and if they all fired
> together would subject him and his capsule to high G-forces that they
> might not be able to withstand.
> Even Steve Bennett's own team are surprised. Gurbir Singh, from
> Starchaser Industries, the rocketeer's own company, told BBC News
> Online that the mission was "somewhat ambitious".
> Pete Davy, of Pete's Rockets, where many British rocket enthusiasts
> get their rockets, was more blunt: "If he gets into that capsule and
> lights the rockets it will be, bye, bye, Bennett."
> But, despite these warnings, the Bennett launch schedule goes ahead.
> "I will be the first private astronaut," he said.
> Commit to launch
> But has Bennett got the "right stuff" to go into space? He is an
> accomplished parachutist but it will take more than that. In
> particular, training in a centrifuge will be needed so that he, and
> any passengers, can learn how to cope with the considerable G-forces,
> higher than those experienced on Nasa's space shuttle.
> Steve Bennett: "I will be the first private astronaut"
> "I've only been in a centrifuge briefly when I took a ride in the one
> at Nasa's Johnson Space Center," Steve Bennett said. "I'll need more
> time. I'll probably have to go to Russia for that."
> But Nasa denies he has been anywhere near their centrifuge, which is
> owned by the US Army and not at the Johnson Space Center anyway, and
> Singh said that no centrifuge training had taken place.
> In the media, Steve Bennett has been called "Britain's answer to
> Nasa". Indeed, on his website, Bennett cites Nasa as one of his
> official sponsors. Nasa denies this and when this was pointed out,
> Bennett said: "Er, that might be an exaggeration, I'll look into
> Within hours of this article appearing Nasa was removed from the list
> of official sponsors on Starchasers website.
> According to Starchaser Industries, two, as yet unnamed, passengers
> have signed up to fly with Bennett for a fee that the company's
> website says is £500,000. In 1999, the company was offering a seat for
> If for any reason the mission does not go ahead, Bennett told us that
> their money is secure. "If they don't fly they will get their money
> Starchaser Industries says that the Thunderbird will be launched using
> a "single, dependable, liquid-propellant engine". In the past, armed
> forces and space agencies have sweated over such engines, spending
> many years and enormous sums on them.
> But according to Singh, the sweating at Starchaser Industries has yet
> to begin, despite the launch date being less than 100 weeks away. He
> said that little work had been done on the liquid-fuelled rocket.
> "This is an aspiration. There are a couple of students looking at it,"
> he said.
> Bennett however, says something different: "I have the first prototype
> engine on the desk in front of me. We plan to test it on a military
> site later this year."
> Rocket experts are somewhat puzzled by this, as Bennett has been
> banned, and caused all other rocketeers to be banned from military
> launch ranges, after he set fire to one when a rocket failed on launch
> a few years ago.
> All agree that if Bennett is to get into space, and win the coveted
> $10 million X-Prize for the first private individual or company to do
> so, he will have to raise his game.
> Amateur record
> Bennett's crowning achievement so far is "launching a rocket to 20,000
> ft (6096 m) that we believe is capable of going to 120,000 ft (36576
> m). In fact, I lead the field," he told BBC News Online.
> But Pete Davy is unimpressed: "For £30 you can put together a rocket
> that will reach 5,000 ft (1524 m). Sending a rocket to 20,000 ft (6096
> m) can be done for less than £1,000."
> The current British amateur rocket altitude record is 34,579 ft
> (10,540 m).
> John Bonsor, of Starr, a Scottish rocketry group is puzzled. "I don't
> understand what is happening. He has been using cheap rockets, has a
> mixed bag of success and disaster and has achieved less than many
> others have working from their garage. It is ridiculous to claim that
> he leads the field, except in the number of crashes."
> "I've come from nothing to being the leading contender in the
> X-Prize," counters Bennett.
> "Only if he reinvents the laws of physics," replies Bonsor. "He has
> absolutely no chance of the X-Prize. Please don't launch."
> Bennett's reply? "Just watch me. 'Seeing is believing', I say to my
> ========================== Forwarded message ends ========================
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